People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
February 08, 2004
Stop This Communal Thought Police!
A NUMBER of artists, writers, cultural activists and other intellectuals have raised their voice against the VHP-Bajrang Dal vandalism at Surat, in Gujarat, where artworks of several renowned artists were destroyed or looted on January 29. They also underlined that such attacks on our cultural heritage have of late become a rule under the saffronite regime of the NDA.
artists and other intellectuals put forth their views at a press conference
organised by the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (SAHMAT), an organisation of
cultural activists, in New Delhi on January 31. The meet later issued a
statement on the subject, which is being reproduced alongside.
Through their interventions at the press conference, veteran and well known painter Krishen Khanna, renowned English fiction writer Geetha Hariharan, culture critic Geeta Kapoor and renowned law expert and Supreme Court lawyer Rajeev Dhawan expressed deep concern over the growing attacks on art heritage and intensifying cultural policing of the Sangh Parivar, and conveyed their resolve to fight it. Well known photographer Ram Rahman conducted the proceedings.
is heartening that similar protest meets are being organised at Baroda and
several other centres in the country.
anguish over the recent attack on an art exhibition in Surat, Krishen Khana
asked who has given the saffron brigade a right to tell an artist, who has spent
whole life in developing her or his conception of art, as to what she or he
should depict and what not. Narrating his personal experience at the time of the
country’s partition, he underscored that those who underwent that trauma do
realise what a horror communalism is. Those who are launching their nefarious
attacks in the name of religion, seek only to cash in upon that pain and trauma.
Hariharan pointed to the well defined pattern behind such attacks, saying that
the Surat attack was only a recent episode in a long chain of hooliganism. She
dubbed the reasons advanced by the saffron brigade for this attack as lame
excuses, and reminded that this time these hoodlums did not even know which
works they were to use as an excuse. She said these attacks become all the more
dangerous in view of the fact that, acting as the “thought police,” some
groups seek to arbitrarily decide what is right and what is wrong and thereby
try to impose their will on others. That such attacks led to abandonment of the
shooting of film Water and a ban on
Laine’s book on Shivaji, shows that what these groups are doing is to impose a
kind of pre-censorship. Now, she sarcastically remarked, an artist, a writer, a
creator will have to be specifically careful that her or his creation must not
be unpalatable to this thought police!
Dhawan drew attention to the fact of state protection and endorsement to such
attacks. He was of the view that these attacks are in continuity with the trend
that started with the Babri demolition. Some forces have decided to impose their
will on the whole of society and the present regime is extending them full
protection. Dhawan underscored the difference between this thought policing and
the censorship a government imposes, stressing the horror of the fascist
mentality underlying the former. He suggested that some durable arrangement
should be evolved to monitor such attacks and rebuff them in time.